Police Stop Procedure During DUI Suspect
People are not randomly checked and arrested for DUI; that is a violation of your civil rights on multiple fronts. There is a formal process all police in Texas should follow to make an arrest for drunk driving. Here is an overview of the DUI process.
Pulling You Over
Police cannot simply pull you over in order to look for drunk drivers. They are supposed to have a reasonable suspicion that you’re intoxicated. This may be because they saw you stagger as you got into your car in a bar parking lot or because the car was having trouble staying in your lane. Or they may be checking everyone at a DUI checkpoint on a holiday weekend. Police can also screen someone for DUI if they’ve been pulled over for a different traffic violation. This is why you could be arrested for DUI after being pulled over for speeding or after you were in an accident.
Making Personal Contact
The traffic violations or erratic driving give the police a reason to pull you over. However, the driving pattern could be due to a variety of reasons, though it may give them the initial idea that you’re a drunk driver. The police cannot do a DWI investigation unless they have sufficient evidence to do so. This can include seeing you with bloodshot eyes or slurred speech when they give you the ticket for the traffic violation. This is a valid reason to demand someone get out of the car for a DWI investigation, typically in the form of a field sobriety test.
Yet you have multiple potential defenses. For example, bloodshot eyes may be due to allergies or a lack of sleep. Don’t start giving excuses such as staying late at work and being very tired. You’re not required to provide explanations, just your driver’s license and registration.
They can demand that you get out of the vehicle if they see alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia in the car. Note that having an open beer can in the cup-holder is a crime in and of itself. They can begin a DWI investigation if they smell alcohol, too.
The Pre-Arrest Screening
This is when they do the standardized field sobriety tests. There are three commonly used field sobriety tests. The first sobriety test they could do is the walk and turn, where you walk heel-to-toe for a set distance and then turn around and walk back. The second option is the horizontal gaze nystagmus or HGN test. This refers to an involuntary jerking of the eyes that is more pronounced if someone is drunk or high. The officer will hold an object 12 to 15 inches in front of your face to see if your eyes are jerking more than normal. The third option is the one-leg stand. You will be asked to stand on one leg and maintain your balance while counting. Using your arms for balance or putting your foot down counts as a clue that you’re drunk.
These tests are somewhat difficult and easy to fail, especially if you have balance and coordination problems. However, you have the right to refuse the tests, though the police may then mandate a blood or urine test. This may be in your favor if you’re sober, since it can prove that there are no drugs or alcohol in your system.
Know that the dashboard camera is almost always recording both video and audio while you do the field sobriety test. Anything you say to the officer at that time is public record.
The Next Level
Field sobriety tests aren’t enough to guarantee a conviction. Police want better evidence. This is why police generally ask you to take a breathalyzer test. In Texas, a refusal to take the chemical test results in a six-month suspension of your driver’s license. This is possible because of Texas’ DWI implied consent laws. If you’ve had at least one drug or alcohol arrest in the past ten years, then the suspension could last as long as two years. You can hire an attorney and challenge this as well as the routine suspension of your driver’s license after a DUI arrest. Note that the driver’s license suspension is separate from the DWI.
A portable breathalyzer isn’t very reliable, and a negative result can result in police demanding a blood test. If the breathalyzer shows low or no alcohol but the police think you’re impaired, they generally move on to blood tests for drugs.
If the police have sufficient evidence to arrest you for DUI, they can book you. They’ll take you to the police station. They’ll take your driver’s license. You’ll get a temporary driving permit that lets you get home and not much else. You may be kept in jail until bailed out or until a judge releases you on your recognizance.